I’m not going to let covid stop me from passing out candy this Halloween, and neither should you (if that feels safe to you, really, you do you!). Sure, you can just set out a bowl of candy, and let the kids just come by and take some. OR! You can build yourself a cannon and launch candy at them from across the yard. Way more fun.
If you’d like more detailed drawings and directions to go along with the build walk-through below, you can get those via the digital plans I have on offer.
Some of the below links are Amazon affiliate links. These links don’t require any extra work on your part, and they don’t cost anything extra, but I get a small kickback if you use them to make a purchase.
Here’s what you’ll need for materials, all of which I acquired from my local big box home improvement store:
- 1 – 6ft 1in x 6in board
- 2 – 6ft 1in x 4in board
- 1 1/2 inch wood screws
- 1 – 14in x 3/4 in diameter dowel
- 1 – 2ft long piece of 4in PVC pipe
- 1 – End cap for 3in PVC pipe
- 4 – 3/8 in x 6in bolts with nuts and washers
- 2 – 3/8 in x 2in bolts with nuts and washers
- 1 – 1/4 in x 2 in eye bolt with nut and washers
- 1 – 1/4 in x 2 in bolt with nut and washer
- 4 ft of Rubber latex tubing
- Paracord, or rope
- A pulley (be sure your chosen paracord or rope fits through the pulley)
- Electrical Tape
- Rubber or Foam
Step 1: Cut Parts for the Bases
We’ll start by cutting the parts for the bases of the cannon.
The main base is up first. The sides of this are made from the 1″x6″, cut into two 3-foot sections. I put some angles on mine, just to make it look a little cooler, but those are completely arbitrary and unneccessary. Either way, it’s best to cut them as rectangles first, and modify later.
For simplicity’s sake, just measure 3-feet on your board, mark that line, and use the jigsaw to cut it. That should be cutting that board nearly in half, so measure the other part, and trim it down to 3 feet long as well.
Now, from the 1″x4″ boards, we want to cut:
- 12-inch sections (x2)
- 10-inch sections (x2)
- 30-inch sections (x2)
Giving us 8 total boards, 4 pairs of matching sets.
Step 2: Assemble the Bases
With all our boards cut, we’ll now assemble them into the two bases that will nest together. Let’s put the Main base together first.
Grab the two 3-foot chunks of 1×6, and the two 1-foot chunks of 1×4. Lay those out, with the wider boards upright, and the shorter boards spanning the gap between them at either end. Apply clamping pressure to hold them in place, so we can use our drill to create a pilot hole for screwing the boards together. Using a pilot hole like this reduces the risk of the screw splitting the grain of the shorter board. Now you’ve got a nice, sturdy Main Base.
The approach to building the pipe’s base is very similar, using the leftover chunks of 1×4. The longer pieces make up the vertical sides, while the shorter ones will be the horizontal supports. We want one of those supports to be flush with the end of the boards, while the other should be attached 6 inches from the other side of the 30-inch board.
Step 3: Drill Axle Holes
With the bases built, we want to nest them together and drill the hole for the axle that will be our pivot point. To do this, set the smaller base into the larger one, so the front edge of each is flush, and the top edges are also flush.
To clamp these in place, you’ll want a spacer that will fill the gap between the two sides of the bases. I just happened to have a paint stir stick handy that would fit nicely for this. But you can grab whatever is nearby. If you don’t put a spacer in there to fill that gap, when you clamp them together, there will be nothing stopping the clamp from pull the pieces out of alignment.
With them clamped in place, mark a line on the top edges of the boards, 1.5 inches from the back end, then mark 1.5 inches down from there. We want to do this on both sides, this will be where we drill through for the axle. Grab your drill and a bit that matches the size of your dowel, and drill as straight through both bases as you can. [If you have access to a drill press, this would be an excellent place to use it, though you may need to disassemble the bases to make that work.]
Step 4: Prepare the Pipe
Now to prepare the pipe. As the outside diameter of the pipe is 4.5 inches, all the holes and cuts made here will be centered 2.25 inches up from the bottom (when looking at the pipe laying flat). It’s important to be sure these are exactly across from the matching holes and cut outs on the opposite side of the pipe.
- If you have access to a drill press and bit that can drill through the 4.5″ pipe, that’s the best way to ensure these line up properly.
- If you’re drilling by hand, use a square or ruler to mark 2.25″ up the side of the pipe. A brad-point drill bit is your friend here, to keep the drill bit from wandering off your mark.
To cut the slot, use your 1/2″ drill bit and drill a hole 3.25″ from each end of the pipe, on your center line. These holes will be the end of the slot, and the 1/2″ bit will put the end of the slot 3″ from the end of the pipe. Using a jigsaw, you can now cut from hole to hole to finish the slot.
You’ll also want 1/2″ holes 2 inches from the front and the back of the pipe, these will be used to connect the pipe to the base. These should be drilled on each side of the pipe, along that same center line.
Step 5: Get the Cup Ready
We’ll modify the 3″ PVC cap to be the cup that goes inside the tube to launch our candy. Start by drilling a half-inch hole through the back of the cup. This will be where we install the eyebolt that the rope will attach to, so we can pull the cup back. [If your cap has any extra nubs on the outside, you’ll need to sand or file that off, to get back to a round surface, that fits smoothly into the pipe.]
Now, we need to drill the holes for bolts to exit the sides of the cup, these will be where the rubber tube will connect to launch the cup forward. You can slide the cup into the pipe to mark where these holes will be, and they should be 1-inch back from the open end of the cup.
With the holes all drilled, now you can install the eyebolt and tie the rope to it.
Step 6: Assemble the Pipe & Cup
First, slide the cup into the pipe. If you forget to do this first, you’ll have a hard time getting the cup into the pipe after the pipe is bolted to the frame (speaking from experience…)
Now, you can insert the bolts through the inside of the cup, so the threads extend out through the slots in the tube. Put a washer on the bolt, and thread the nut on so there’s about 3/4″ between the washer and the tube, this will be where the rubber tubing will rest on the bolt.
Step 7: Pipe to Base Assembly
Using the 6-inch bolts, attach the pipe to the sides of the pipe base. Insert the bolts through the holes in the PVC pipe and use them to mark where on the base you need to drill the corresponding hole.
For the rear bolts, having the head of the bolt on the outside of the base, should allow it to still fully pivot on the dowel. For the front bolts, you’ll want the head of the bolt to be inside the pipe, to not block the candy from leaving the tube. Insert them into the appropriate places, and use a nut and washer to tighten them into place.
With all the bolts attached, now use zip ties to create the rubber bands that will act as bungees to pull the cup forward fire the cannon.
To prevent the front of the PVC pipe from taking so much force, we’ll use two small pieces of rubber or foam, and insert them at the front of the slots, to soften the blow when the cup comes launching forward. Cut them slightly over-sized, and wedge them into place.
Step 8: Pulley Installation
With the pipe and base assembled into a single unit, we want to set that assembly into the main base we made at the beginning. Nest them together, being sure to line up the holes that were drilled for the dowel that will be our axis, then insert the dowel.
With the dowel axis in there, we can install the pulley. We want this to be lined up with the center of the pipe, so the pull rope goes through it smoothly. Mark that spot on the dowel, then drill a quarter-inch hole. Using the 1/4 x 2″ bolt, attach the pulley to the dowel.
Step 9: COMPLETED!
You should now have a cannon that is fully assembled and ready to fire!
When firing, because of the forces being applied, you’ll want to weigh down the front and back of the cannon. I’ve found that placing a cinder block on the front support, while using my foot to hold down the rear support, works well.
Once you’re done having fun launching candy everywhere, share photos of your completed cannon with me! I’d love to see what you create, and how you jazz up your cannon.